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Baby cried & a mother sang: while it is people who make babies, it is at least as true that babies make real people.

There are a number of collections of what are purported to be "children's letters to God." It might be instructive to compare Luke's account of the birth of Jesus to the hopes and fears expressed in some of these "letters" from children.

Dear God, Thank you for my baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.--Joyce

The letter from Joyce indicates she greeted the birth of her sibling with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Sibling rivalries arise early and, sometimes, never leave as the story of Cain and Abel illustrates (Genesis 4).

Babies are demanding, too, tending to reorder the world around them. New parents often declare the arrival totally changes their lives in ways it was impossible to have imagined previously. Life no longer centres on the individual or the couple; now, another life makes demands and gives a new perspective that is demanding but also freeing.

In our time, at least, babies help in the task of maturing adults. Recent discussion in newspapers and magazines on the merits of having children versus dogs suggests the topic is very much alive. But even though puppies give much pleasure, they are not a satisfactory substitute for the maturing of adults. A check of people you know may confirm the opinion that, while it is people who make babies, it is at least as tree that babies make real people. If you doubt this, compare the maturity of those who have children to those who have Rottweilers.

In Luke's Gospel, old Zechariah was struck dumb when he wondered how it could be that his barren wife, Elizabeth, was about to become a mother. Still, unlike Joyce's response of ingratitude to the birth of a brother rather than a puppy, Zechariah sang the praise of God for the birth of John. This child would prepare the way for Jesus, the one whose name (and life) means "God saves."

The announcement of Jesus' birth was made to the powerless -- to shepherds who dared not imagine God had an enduring love even for them. Who can love the unlovely?

Dear God, I know you love everybody but you haven't met my sister.--Arnold

Imagine a God who even loves Arnold's sister and Dan's difficult family. Such love is beyond our expectations.

Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all the people in the world. There are only four people in our family and I can never do it.--Dan

Devout old Simeon who longed for the day of the Messiah was given the best Christmas gift of all: the gift of hope for his, and indeed all, people (Luke 2:32). The prophetess Anna joined Simeon and this unusual cast of characters in grateful praise (Luke 2:36). The good news now received, the generation of memory had remained faithful and was now ready to depart in peace.

Unusual for the Middle East, the birth of Jesus revolved more around Mary the mother than Joseph -- the one whose name appeared in the birth registry. Mary, a mother of "low estate," sang of future events so sure it was as if they had already happened. Mary sang of a Child who made the turbulence of the earth a home for God and a refuge for humans. She sang of the lifting up of the poor and the falling down of the rich. She sang of a kingdom not a carnival (something hoped for by young Loreen):

Dear God, I think a lot more people would come to your church if you moved it to Disneyland.--Loreen

A larger vision is needed lest we think life is all entertainment and the world is a Disneyland where we can shut out what is real. Though a puppy may bring delight, it is nothing compared to the gift of a child, especially this Child -- this Jesus, Son of God's love, whose life changes our outlook on life and death.

The story does not end with Advent or Christmas, of course. It continues at the end of Chapter 2 with Jesus seeking the way of his Father, as he "increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour." The life of this Child of Bethlehem invites us to mature in faith and to a reordering of our lives and a rearrangement of our priorities.
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Author:Siverns, Ted
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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